The butterflies in her stomach fluttered about, refusing to settle. She hadn't been this nervous or excited in a long time. She glanced at the clock. It was 5:12 pm, and the light in the sky was slowly fading.
She pulled back the drapes to stare at the sliver of the sunset she could see from the apartment window. Took a deep breath, wished the day farewell and hoped that things could get better. That she could get better. That life could change. That whatever had happened last night didn't mean she was a criminal. That maybe, just maybe, these butterflies in her stomach told her it was time to move on.
As the last bit of the sun disappeared, she found hope.
She stripped off her clothes and got back in the shower. The one earlier in the day had been so typical. She'd washed off the night before, put it behind her. This time, she cleansed her body hoping that she could wash more away than whatever has happened just prior. This time, she scrubbed and scrubbed at her skin, trying to wash away her past.
She stared at the water circling the drain. So many times she felt that helpless. She had felt that way just today, and yet now she was different. This guy, he saw something in her that no one else had seen. That she'd forgotten about.
She turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. The mirror she'd wiped off earlier awaited, but now there was another person looking back at her. The cut was still there, though.
She towel dried her hair and immediately decided to cut more bangs. She had to try and cover it, even though he'd probably already seen it.
Meticulously, she trimmed and trimmed. She plucked her eyebrows. Dug the curling iron out from the bottom of the cabinet and went to work. She hadn't cared this much about how she looked in months. Years, maybe.
6:34. She was running out of time.
She scanned the closet. She wanted to send the right message. Sexy, but not desperate. Interested, but not pathetic. Excited, but not too excited. She knew what she was wearing.
The dress was old, but it still looked new. She'd only worn it once before. For him. For Bryan. She shoved that out of her mind, willing it to go away. The shoes, though, they could tell stories. She wasn't writing those stories anymore, she promised herself. She stepped into them one at a time and fastened the strap around her heel. Quickly touched up her toenail polish.
There was a knock at the door and he was here. She put on her last earring and ran to the door, pausing to take another deep breath.
He looked good. Really good. The color of his shirt perfectly matched the hue of his green eyes, and she was drawn in like a moth to a flame. She gathered her things quickly, locked the door, and they were off.
He hadn't noticed that her car was gone, and for that she was grateful. Right now, that didn't matter. She wasn't that person anymore, whoever that person was.
They arrived at the restaurant in just a few minutes. It was the new steakhouse she'd heard about, but hadn't been to yet. Trendy, upscale. They had a valet. She stepped out of the car, and Scott was there with a hand outstretched. She hated that this small act of chivalry made her swoon, but she couldn't help it. He put his hand on the small of her back as they walked through the entrance, and she felt like the most beautiful woman in the world.
She wanted this, whatever this was.
He'd made reservations, and they were seated immediately. The atmosphere was seductive. Dim lighting, a single candle on each table. The music was low and earthy with a constant drumbeat. It was the kind of place with expensive linens and menus that come in sturdy leather folders. She gasped involuntarily when she glanced at the prices.
She didn't deserve this.
He looked over the top of his menu and asked what she would order. His eyes. Dani was at a loss for words as she did the math in her head. Well, I'm not really sure yet. It all looks so good, as she peered at the plates on other tables, then locked eyes with him.
Smiled and bit her lip.
I think I'm having the filet, he replied. Their steaks are the best around, so I hear. Order whatever you'd like, Dani, it's on me.
She gulped. She didn't want to be that girl who orders a salad then starves the rest of the night. Scanned the menu over and over, searching for the perfect choice.
The waitress stopped at the edge of the table, and asked if they would like anything to drink. He opened the wine list and she cringed. Dani grabbed her water glass and gulped almost half of it down immediately.
He looked across the table and said, Dani, do you prefer white or red?
Oh, you choose. I don't drink much. Hardly at all, actually. She smirked.
She couldn't believe that those words had just come out of her mouth. She wanted him to like her so desperately, she wanted things to be normal so badly. She just wanted to be a girl in a nice dress in an amazing restaurant with a handsome, kind man. She was willing to hide this from him if that's what it took. So what if she'd been sitting in an interrogation room hours before, accused of a drunken hit and run? So what if he'd caught her just as she threw out all the bottles she had stashed in her car? He hadn't seen them, and he didn't need to know.
She certainly wasn't going to tell him.
Besides, she was done with that. All of it.
Scott ordered two appetizers. Oysters on the half shell and crab cakes. He looked at her for approval as he gave the order to the waitress, then asked for more time for Dani to choose her entrée.
They talked about work for a bit, where he'd gone to school. He'd gone to a small school she'd never heard of in Washington state. The way he talked about the beauty and serenity of the place made her almost want to scream out loud that they should run away together and go there and never look back. She wanted that more than anything right now. She could do that, she could leave this life behind. She could forget the past. What was here for her before was gone now, and the only thing she had to look forward to was sitting across the table from her at this exact moment.
The bartender arrived with a bottle of wine and snapped her back into the present. She wasn't off living some fabulous life of adventure with this man. Not yet, anyway. She was here. In Ohio. And there was a man waiting with a bottle of wine, offering her a glass to sample. He paused to see if she would give her approval of this choice, bottle turned and presented to them both.
She struggled to remember how to taste wine, really taste it. This was going to test her willpower in a way that it had never been tested before. She was going to sit and have this meal with appetizers and salad and steak and she was going to sip wine like normal people do.
She could do this.
The sip of red wine crossed her lips and she wanted more. Craved it. Her body urged her to finish it. To take the bottle and leave. It told her to stop lying, that she knew who she was. She was a drunk and she wanted more. Now. She needed it.
The wine spoke to her body and soul. The smell infiltrated her senses. It intoxicated her just to catch the scent of it from the bottom of the glass. She refused to listen.
She put the glass down gently, that is lovely, it will do just fine. Thank you.
The bartender nodded silently and filled both glasses halfway. Placed the bottle on the corner.
She reached across the table and stroked Scott's hand.
This. This man is what I want, and I will do whatever it takes, she told herself.
Her leg began to tremble. She knew what it was, and she knew what she had to do. She excused herself from the table, walked to the bathroom slowly. Every step she fought the shakes back, tried to exorcise them from her body all while remembering she was in a dimly lit romantic restaurant and people were watching.
Inside the bathroom, she slid over the lock on the door, closed the toilet lid and reached into her purse. Her saviors. The tiny bottles of Jack Daniels, two of them. She quickly drank them both, taking sick pleasure from the burn as it went down.
It felt so good just to feel.
The shakes stopped after a few minutes.
Just this time. Just tonight.
She was talking to herself. She promised this was the last time.
She chewed the last piece of gum in her purse for a moment, then tossed it and the bottles in the trash. She touched up her lipstick and spread the bangs evenly across her forehead again. The cut was hardly visible. Tightened the straps on her bra and adjusted the neckline of her dress.
There was a man out there waiting for her, and she wasn't about to mess this up.
This post is part of a fiction challenge I am participating in. This is a continuation of a story that already has two parts. You can find them here: part 1, part 2 and part 3.
Here is this week's prompt:
Invent a / your character (who) has two personality traits that are completely incompatible, that don't fit together at all. For example: this character is incredibly messy and is also a total perfectionist. Or: this character is a pacifist and also has a really explosive temper. Or: this character believes in strict, traditional family values but is promiscuous by nature. You decide. Then think of a situation in which these two sides of your character would be in direct conflict with each other. Write the story / scene.
Check out the pieces from the other participants!
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